Source: Dr. Bob Kaufmann, used with permission
Bob Kaufmann is Unitarian minister who has served several Unitarian congregations, often as an interim minister, and has served as an interim Leader of the Ethical Culture Society of the New York Society for Ethical Culture in the 1990’s.
Audience: Membership committee, membership person in each society
Each of the numbered topics below refers to a brief paragraph or a page of recommendations.
Copyright Bob Kaufmann New York, NY, 1990 Rev. Boca Raton, FL 4/18/97
Appendices include forms, pamphlets, etc (TH note: no appendices were received)
By Dr. Bob Kaufmann
There is an old adage: when two people exchange dollars, each has one; but when two people exchange ideas, each has two.
As others have generously shared their ideas with me, it is only reasonable that I should share them with everyone who is interested in them. I would welcome any ideas you may have to strengthen this program.
One thing that I have noted is that all too frequently, what passes for order is only chaos with which we have become familiar. All too frequently, this kind of order was not planned as much as it was inherited. Building membership requires a more controlled, planned, intentional approach.
Most of the materials in this program apply to every situation. Some, however, are personality and situation specific. They have worked for me, and have resulted in the last seven churches I have served as interim setting records for new members during my times there. Others have worked successfully for other churches and other ministers with styles substantially different from mine.
Above all, the attitudes have to be genuine. If we do not believe in what we are saying and doing, no one else will either.
THE SINE QUA NON!
Much as some churches like to think of themselves as ‘truly universal’, the fact is there is no such thing! Every church, from the most fundamental to the most liberal occupies a niche.
It is absolutely essential that each church knows what it is – what niche it occupies!
Then and only then can the members of the church present themselves honestly to potential members.
This is not the same as setting up a program to create a vision statement. More often than not, a vision statement is an idealized statement of wish as opposed to a pragmatic view of reality.
LET US PUT THIS IN SIMPLER,
MORE HUMAN TERMS
Over nine years of research went into my doctoral dissertation on marital communications. My research revealed that one of, if not the greatest problem in marriage is inadequate conversation, incomplete communication, and unsatisfactory communication.
Underlying that inability to communicate well is the painful fact that the individuals could not share what it was that would please them because they had never examined themselves thoroughly and honestly as individuals. Despite this, each expected the other to know exactly what it was they wanted.
With congregations as with individuals, we cannot share information about ourselves unless we know who we were, who we are, how we got this way, and who we are becoming. When we do this seriously and objectively, we avoid making mistakes based on our acting as ‘wannabees’, or ‘wannahaves’.
Now, let us get down to business. (I would prefer to discuss these from the ‘we’ perspective, for what we are about is a product of past sharing, and a contributor to future sharing. However, it will be more helpful if, for the moment, this examination focuses on ‘you’.)
To determine who you are as a church, you need to check out the past and present programs and attitudes of the church,
How have they changed in the past five years?
And now, can you describe the new member you want to have join? (Do yourself a favor, and do not mention either Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Santa Claus. I have decided to take them for my own congregation.)
Are there now, comfortably within your church, a good percentage of members representing those various character and personality traits you admire?
I recommend strongly that you do not gloss over these questions lightly. It is critical that your campaign to expand membership be congruent with who you are. If it is not, you may gain some members, but you will also buy trouble.
One statistic that is fairly common through almost every religious organization is that most of the dissension originates from people who have been in the congregation for five years or less!
New members are essential to maintaining the viability of your congregation. However, new members also represent one of the greatest challenges to harmony of your congregation. The diversity that new people can bring to your congregation will enrich your lives.
The greatest assurance you can have that your new members will be a blessing and not a curse is to be certain that they know and appreciate who you are before they make the decision to join with you.
Know yourself! Define yourself. Once you have done these things, you can begin your work.
TO GROW OR NOT TO GROW
A membership development program is an integral element of a congregational growth program. However, it is not the same thing.
In some instances, a membership development program is intended to produce a larger congregation. Even here, there may be a different purposes – different end goals. We shall cover these in just a bit.
In other instances, the goal may not be growth in overall numbers, but a sustainable vitality. Quite obviously, without new members joining a church, the congregation will gray, wither, and die.
At the same time, the existing membership must be nurtured and maintained as the new members come in, for if the older members are disenchanted and withdraw, the church will become one large revolving door, and will change its character every few years.
In brief, if all new members do when they enter is to squeeze out older members, there will be change, and indeed turmoil, but no growth.
There are people who are considered pro-growth, and people who are thought to be opposed to growth. All too frequently – and unnecessarily – these people become so set in their positions that neither succeeds. Dissension does not simply stop growth; it distresses and reduces the existing membership.
+ It is reasonable to debate this issue.
+ There is no wrong side in this debate.
+ There should be no choosing up of sides.
The reality is that each position has much to support it. With understanding, agreement between the two sides is easier to achieve, and conflict can be avoided.
We can best approach this effort at understanding by asking what our religious movement stands to gain from growth, as differentiated from our individual church would gain, or lose, from growth.
Certainly, no one (of us) wants Unitarian Universalism to shrivel up and blow away. And just about everyone in the movement would be happy if nationwide we were to double or triple in numbers – of members, and of churches and fellowships.
We would profit if we could direct ourselves to that consideration, while we maintain our focus on how best to preserve and enhance the special quality we find attractive in each of our individual congregations.
(Again, we must remember that although it may be the values associated with our movement that capture the attention of our visitors, it is the present congregation – both individually and in total numbers – that new members find attractive and want to join!)
ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL!
As of today we do not have a single megachurch in our movement. It may be that we do not want one for one of many reasons.
Most of us would agree that there are limits (in our minds) to the optimum maximum size of our personal ideal church.
The upper limits may be there because of limited facilities for Sunday services, and/or religious education, ability to provide pastoral care for very large numbers of people, rites of passage, community activities, and social events.
We know that some churches, because of the size of their facilities, may be called upon to go to two or three services on a Sunday, and perhaps have a weekday evening service as well.
These churches gain in the area of ‘voice’, in their influence in the larger community, in political/moral issues, and in attention from the media.
These same churches may lose in that the members do not establish the same integration with all the other members as do people meeting in a single service church. Quite frequently, they make up for this by attending the same time service each Sunday, and develop their larger contacts within that segment of the ‘congregation’.
The practice which most ‘growth’ churches in our movement have followed is to examine the demographics of their congregation and of their community, and then their neighboring communities. Then, through long range planning, they prepare to spawn other churches that will serve a large contingent of their members now clustered in one or more outlying areas.
This allows them to maintain the quality of community (governed by size) that they treasure, while assuring them of the essential vitality that new members bring to their church or fellowship.
To be totally antigrowth, one would either have to maintain a waiting list for membership, and not accept a new member until an old one moved away or died. Carried to a ridiculous extreme, seating in the sanctuary would be reserved for members, and first time attendees or regular non-member attendees would have to wait until perhaps ten minutes after the service has started before they would be permitted in to take any empty seats.
To sum up:
Respect for each other
Visitors will judge us as much and possibly more by how we deal with each other than how we greet them.
+ When we talk with or about each other, we need to keep our comments affirmative
+ When we disagree, we should be able to do so with politeness and grace. Angry arguments should be kept to a minimum. Sniping should be absent.
+ Statements about minister, staff, and other members should be positive.
Respect for the pulpit and church
+ It is one thing to attend church in “casual” garb. It is another to participate in the service dressed in that fashion. Such attire worn by either minister or lay person in the pulpit may be accepted by the other members for what they may consider it –casual—but visitors could be turned off—and away by it.
Respect for the building and grounds
+ The buildings need to look sharp. Long time members do not scrutinize a building as a visitor does. The visitors are curious, and will see papers scattered around, a kitchen that isn’t well maintained, bathrooms that are not as pristine as they could be, and much more. Let’s shape up!
Enthusiasm flows from and results in respect for the church. This is evidenced in several ways:
Build on the affirmative.
+ In the final analysis, the church is the people, and how we relate to one another. Any community, ours included, can be improved. Nothing is perfect. If we want to make things better, we can do this more profitably than by spending our time on those things we like. This is particularly true of a church community.
We should focus on the things about the church that we truly like – and participate actively in those areas. Our enthusiasm will be contagious, and others will want to join us – and the church.
We have a marvelous heritage. We would do well to know it, and honor it, even as we acknowledge that in honoring it, we are not restricted by it.
If we have an historic church, we should have docents available to describe it to visitors.
Whatever the age of our individual church, we should maintain a full set of archival material. In this era, that specifically includes videotaped interviews with many of our members. These will be useful in the future – when our children and their children will be continuing the effort to strengthen our religion.
Building membership is not a one-time program. It is an ongoing element –an essential element to the life of Unitarian Universalism.
We should take pride in our church facility, however modest or grand, and evidence that pride by the way we maintain it.
People will respond in kind to our attitude.
+ UPBEAT. At all times, our attitude within the church community should be upbeat. No one wants to join a downer. This is even true at times of great personal, community, or national tragedy. Then, we can address ourselves to what can be done for or about, not what was done to.
+ THE PRIME REASON most people do not join a church, or ONCE HAVING JOINED, drift away from church is unpleasantness – members dealing in negatives – members attacking each other or the minister – is epitomized in the often heard comment, “I have enough grief in my life the rest of the week, I don’t have to come to church on Sunday for more of the same.”
+ AN EQUALLY IMPORTANT REASON THAT OLD-TIMERS DRIFT AWAY FROM THE CHURCH IS UNPLANNED GROWTH. The comment we hear – if we listen – is, “When I come to church, I do not recognize most of the people. It is just not ‘my’ church anymore.
+ THIS IS AN ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT FACTOR, AND WE WILL DEAL WITH IT AT LENGTH WITHIN THE ‘BUDDY’ OR ‘MENTOR’ PROGRAM, AND WITHIN THE ‘LAY MINISTRY’ PROGRAM!
+ SETTING AFFIRMATIVE STANDARDS OF BEHAVIOR: DEALING WITH PATHOGENS. We Acknowledge that people, even those who most frequently are involved in the conflicts, are not evil, and certainly do not wish to be perceived as evil, or unpleasant, or difficult. For some it may be the only way they feel they receive the attention they desire. However, giving them attention only serves to reinforce the behavior which is destructive to church growth.
Negative behavior – to the point where people involved appear to be pathogenic – should be treated not as a signal for retaliatory -- but similar - response. Instead, everyone needs to recognize that some behavior and speech is simply unacceptable.
The more we tolerate unacceptable behavior, the more of it we will have.
+ PRIDE AND GRACE. An expression of pride in our religion, and in our particular church is extremely productive.
However, these expressions should not include the graceless denigration of any other religion or church. We will not build up ourselves by such a process, but soil our own image.
+ Kill rumors. The carrier of rumors is the carrier of a plague. Do not allow someone to tell you something – with the promise you won’t tell anyone where you heard it. Assure people that when they tell you something, you will quote them. That will get you out of the rumor loop.
+ Say pleasant things about each other. Smile. Say things to others that you would be pleased to have them quote, and that the people about whom you are speaking will like you for.
+ BE GENEROUS WITH OUR PRAISE.
Too frequently, people find it difficult to be wholly generous. We will sometimes hear the compliment with a sharp edge to it. “You have such marvelous things to say … it is a pity you have to mumble.
My favorite one I hear when I am playing golf. One of the players with me is likely to compliment me by saying, “Great shot!” The problem is they say it with a tone of amazement.
Compliment people. Be open, and generous about it. People will like to be a part of that.
Building membership requires a highly focused effort. The congregation must know the goal of growth. They have to understand the size to which they want to grow, and why they want to be that size.
It is essential that everyone understand that growth is not an end in itself.
Reasons for growth:
+ Without new members, congregations will age, shrink
+ Without new members, few new ideas come in to congregation
+ Without new members, congregation becomes more and more ingrown, less and less aware of, or recognized by the larger community.
+ Without new members, very limited support for present programs, even less for future programs.
+ Every aspect of this program to build membership must be considered – and intentional. The Membership Committee is the largest in the church in that, functioning properly, it includes every single member.
+ PLAN FOR GROWTH
Any unusual growth – growth that goes beyond the regular pattern of growth of a church can present problems. The problems grow to pitfall dimensions if there is neither congregationally understood and agreed upon purpose for the growth, or a plan and adequate staffing (enthusiastic members) to integrate the new joiners.
+ INTEGRATION OF THE NEWER MEMBERS, UTILIZING THE LONG-TIME MEMBERS IS NOT MERELY IMPORTANT, IT IS CRUCIAL!
LEADERSHIP: Most churches wisely seek to develop consensus before taking action. Indeed, Consensus building is essential – up to a point.
Passing that point … delaying decisions past the point of the time for effective action -- can be seen as the absence not of consensus, but of leadership.
Boards are trustees … they are entrusted by the congregation to use their mature judgment in the best interests of the community (interior and exterior)!
+ VISION: The vision of the church is defined both in the actions … and the inactions of the congregation.
It must be remembered that people do not support a budget:
+ VISION is maintained by LEADERSHIP. LEADERSHIP is an integral part of the ministry. (The Ministry, not the minister) The congregation, both individually and collectively, in concert with the minister, make up the ministry.
This is not a struggle for dominance. It is not one over the other, but each, side by side, moving, working, loving, for the greater good of the congregation and the larger community.
ANALYZE – DON’T CRITICIZE
Anyone can be a critic. Anyone can carp. Such attitudes are not helpful.
Avoid even that which is called euphemistically, ‘Constructive Criticism.’ Criticism, under any name, hurts more than it helps.
Quiet, affirmative review that builds on the positive aspects of any activity helps.
+ The style of the church, the service, the communication should remain consistent from week to week. This speaks only to style. The content will change regularly.
+ Newcomers particularly will be confused if you shift back and forth between high church and relaxed informality within the service.
+ Membership development program should be a constant thing – not an every now and then program. (i.e., ‘Bring A Friend To Church” should not be once every three or six month event, but a way of life – every chance you get.)
+ commit yourself to certain programs. If they don’t work immediately, or even within the first few weeks, do not quit on them. It takes time for some programs to be accepted. Stick with it!
+ People attending church for the first time are usually shy. That first step into the church is, for many people, a courageous one. Once they have taken that step, it is up to us to welcome them actively. Anything short of that will be regarded as cool, if not distant and cold. (The very few people who are upset by this will be vastly outnumbered by those who respond favorably. Go with the odds!)
+ Organize records as far back as possible. The statistical data you gather will provide you with invaluable information in planning your programs and your methods. When we find a period of growth – or a period of lack of growth – check further to find the underlying reasons.
+ Check visitor patterns.
+ Check Membership patterns.
++ When do most people visit?
++ What are the biggest months for enrolling new members?
++ Do you have open membership roles, or do you limit the times people can join?
+ Listen To what they have to say. And always be affirming – not just of them – but of the church!
+ Make sure your literature is specific. “We welcome everyone” is not.
+ This next is: “We welcome everyone, regardless of race, creed, religious heritage, national origin, gender, affectional preference, and anything else you can think of. And we mean just what that says.”
+ Have enough greeters on hand outside the sanctuary to accommodate more than the largest number of visitors you are likely to have.
+ Make sure every visitor gets name tagged.
+ Be certain to have greeters especially for families with children when they arrive at the sanctuary or assembly hall. Those greeters should escort the families to the appropriate R.E. area, and then introduce both the parents and the children to the proper person, and then bring the adults back to the sanctuary or meeting hall.
+ Be certain that a greeter accompanies each visitor (or family) into the main room, and sits with them during the service.
+ That greeter/host should then take the visitor into the place of the social hour, and introduce the visitor to other members.
+ As soon as you ascertain the interests or backgrounds of the visitors, attempt to match them up with a member of similar background or interests.
+ If you find the visitor to be a crashing bore, you still do not desert him or her. Chances are that another member might find that person interesting. Don’t walk away. Act as you would like someone else to act toward you! Introduce that person to someone else in the church.
+ If you are having lunch at the church, personally invite the visitor to stay as your guest. Do not rely on an announcement about this from the pulpit!
+ If you’re not having a lunch at the church, one of the greeting team (hopefully the largest team in the church) invites them to join in a lunch out – or perhaps to a lunch at someone’s home.
+ A letter is sent by the minister on the Monday following the service.
+ A phone call is made by a member (Membership Coordinator) within 48 hours – within 24 hours is preferable.
+ Information about interests of visitors gleaned in the Sunday morning conversations, and in the phone conversation is written down, and relayed immediately (either directly or through the Membership Coordinator) to members of like interests and background.
+ A second phone call is made by the like-interest member by Friday, inviting the visitor/s to meet at the church next Sunday (or to an earlier program or party if one is scheduled).
+ Watch for them on the next Sunday. And greet them joyfully!
+ HOWEVER AT YOUR PERIL – DO NOT NEGLECT ONGOING RECOGNITION OF YOUR LONG TIME MEMBERS IN THE NEWSLETTER AND IN ALL THE ACTIVITIES IN THE CHURCH!
+ People will not think you nosy if you ask about them. Most usually, are flattered that you are interest in them.
+ Maintain as complete a written record as possible – updating it regularly – of the comments of your visitors.
+ Find out what they think of us, and note, as well, what we think of them.
++ This will help determine what kind of people we are attracting as well as keeping.
+ Keep track of all visitors – but keep closest track of those with the greatest potential to become members.
++Emphasize Interests over Skills!
+ Be sure to invite visitors to a Candlelight and Conversation (a casual get-together) preferably at the Minister’s home, within three Sundays of their first visit to the church.
+The Candlelight and Conversation gatherings should run from 7 to 9 P.M. and be attended y the minister and/or board leaders and membership coordinator.
+ The closing time of 9 P.M. is particularly important. People may enjoy the meeting, and want it to run later, but they may have a different opinion the next morning when they drag themselves out of bed to go to work after a later night.
+ The Tea and Conversation should run from 1 to 3 P.M. on Sundays following church.
++ If they cannot make it the first time, invite them again. And once again.
+ Invite them to a potluck dinner (fork supper, circle supper, supper club, bring a plate, budget gourmet club etc.) preferably at a member’s house, within one month of their first visit. And, again!
+When they participate in anything, recognize them in the newsletter.
+Personal Theology Programs
++ BUILDING YOUR OWN THEOLOGY
There are two very solid reasons for this.
+ Assure the new members that we operate in this fashion because we do not want the first call they get after they join in to be from someone on the finance committee asking them about money. Everyone is happier if the first call they get is from someone inviting them to a party or an interesting activity.
+The second reason is that people follow their money with their time and their interest much more than the reverse!
+Make certain they are being invited to programs of interest to them.
+Make certain they are invited to social events
+Offer to sit with them in official meetings, to explain what is going on.
Every new member gets a mentor (buddy) assigned. Match them as closely as you can. As much as possible, keep the long time members involved in this program. That way, with ‘ownership’ of the new members, they won’t find their church “a sea of strangers.”
Important: Whenever possible have the mentor/buddy present when the new member signs the book!
When you welcome the new members into the church at a regular church service (or at a dinner or other special event), have them introduced or presented by their Mentor (buddy, sponsor, etc.).
+ Old members are the heart of your church. New blood is needed for the heart, but without the heart, there is no church.
+ In the Doctors of Durability service, honor all those members who have achieved the ages of 80, 85, 90, 95, and 100. At each level, these people receive different levels of their ‘degrees’. I have found the best way to conduct this service is not to select one person to speak for all of them, or even one person from each group, but to have the minister engage each of them in a brief conversation in front of the congregation.
+ Having them honored and respected in front of the congregation not only is supportive of them, but reflects well on the entire spirit of the congregation, and is quite attractive to all newcomers to our church.
+ In the Order of Service, publish a credo statement, approximately 150 words in length (or a personal comment about life in general) written by each of them.
ANALYZE – DON’T CRITICIZE
What doesn’t work – figure out why, and fix it.
What works, try to make it work better.
(Outlaw the statement, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it.”
If this were valid, we would still be traveling about on horseback.)
+ Arrange for a Memorial Garden on the church grounds, for ashes of deceased members and their families, if space permits. MAKE CERTAIN THAT THIS AREA IS WELL TENDED!
+ A columbarium (wall interment of ashes) if space and local ordinances permit.
+ A memorial bench, with small plaques, if possible.
+ A memorial wall, with plaques.
+ At the very least, a memorial plaque (with small brass plates for individual names and dates).
Sunday morning services should accurately reflect the congregation: joyful, activist, spiritual or whatever.
Pamphlets and flyers for each of the programs offered y the church should be available – easily available – for visitors. These should give contact names and telephone numbers as well as times, dates and other essential information. They should also make clear that everyone (if this is the case) is welcome to attend.
Frequently, this will lead us to develop programs that will find wide acceptance, and be particularly attractive to newcomers who may have come to church seeking just such programs. The list of these is endless. The following are but a few examples:
+ Families of the Mentally Disabled
+ Families of the Physically Disabled
+ Families of Homosexuals
+ Support groups for sufferers of particular illnesses or people about to or having just undergone surgeries.
+ Support groups for people losing jobs or seeking new ones.
+ Be certain to have a series of groups and activities that meet the needs and desires of people widowed, divorced, or otherwise separated from their regular life patterns.
Most churches look to their long time members to do this. There is a statistic (which quite frankly, I doubt seriously) that claims the average member of a congregation brings a friend to church only once every 27 years). The reality is by the time they become long time members, most of their friends who would be interested in the church are already members of the church.
New members have a fresh enthusiasm … and a whole circle of friends outside the church itself. Concentrate our energies here on our newer members!
+ It gives them an opportunity to feel – and be recognized as – part of the church very quickly.
+ BUT BE CERTAIN THAT THE LONG TIME MEMBERS ARE AN INTEGRAL PART OF THAT SAME ACTIVTY!
Allowing visitors to know our name makes us less of a stranger to them, and increases the sense of welcome essential to growth. Using our name tags makes it more comfortable for our visitors to wear them.
We should not presume that people know our name, even if we are wearing our name tag and have been a member of the church for 75 years. Even while wearing them, ask the visitors their names, and tell them ours.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves. We offer the false, prideful boast that we do not proselytize. We don’t – “other” churches do. Maybe so. But what do we think outreach is?
Outreach can be achieved on a one to one basis – and on many other levels as well. There is no suggestion that the following list of possibilities is anywhere near complete.
+ Press releases: constant. (Attach black and white photographs whenever possible.) Constant means just that. If a paper that sometimes carries articles about programs such as the ones we are producing ignores our releases – KEEP IT UP! Hand plant them (carry them to the media personally). Eventually we will gain coverage. And each time one of our releases is published our broadcast makes it easier for us to be covered in the future.
+ Letters to Editors – Constant – by members and ministers.
+ Sponsor and/or host organizations and events – open to public – that reflect UU values – and match our demographics (All the following are “such as”)
+ Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
+ Pro Environment groups and causes.
+Educational approaches and programs not generally available elsewhere.
+Feed The Hungry Programs (Join with other churches, religions in this)
Musical Theatre Café
Music and Dance programs
Art Exhibits (both juried and internal – church members)
These not only add to the cultural life of the church, but can be a solid source of revenue.
+ Key all printed materials. The internal is the external. Stationery, Newsletter Bulletins, News Releases, Flyers, Pamphlets. This is part of the church outreach. So is your logo.
+ Create and present humanitarian of the year awards at annual banquet. (Go outside the church for these people, who “represent the values”, etc.)
+ Offer financial and work help to organizations outside of the church – and outside of UU as well. People will join and support a church more if they have visible evidence that the church, “is doing something for someone.”
+ Choir visits and performs at senior citizen homes, hospitals, church shut-ins. (On Christmas, larger group caroling, both in neighborhood, if this is practicable, and again, at hospitals.) When visiting homes of member shut-ins, take along a gift of some cookies.
and along with a calendar showing their birthdays, include the birthdays of famous UUs of history. People are regularly interested to know the names of historic figures with whom they have birthdays.
+ Don’t forget the Doctors of Durability!
+ Watch for significant dates in the church history. You can get these from a timeline or the archives. Treat them as important, with appropriate celebrations.
+ In Newsletter, publish column from 25 years ago, 50 years ago, etc.
+ People will appreciate and respond to longevity and tradition.
+ You might list the names and dates served of each of the past ministers of the church.
+ Install a dignified display, with names of all past board chairpersons, along with the dates they served.
… and have it available on Sunday mornings for visitors to take home with them.
Note that in UU, the minister speaks to, and not for, the congregation.
This will have a significant effect upon the financial support of the church. Emphasize that you do not “give” to something you own. You do not “give” money to your home mortgage company. You pay to maintain that which is yours.
(i.e., by a majority of 185 to 74, the congregation of the UU church voted to support (object to) etc.
Point out how we do not suffer either from the tyranny of the majority or the tyranny of the minority.
When we have people in our pulpits like Ray Bradbury, Ralph Nader, Paul MacCready, an Attorney-General talking about justice, or a Senator talking about freedom of choice, we attract people who might never have known of our presence in the community.
We are all familiar with a milestones element in many of our services. Candles are sometimes used, but there are a number of negatives attached to them.
+They sometimes remind people of the churches of their younger days.
+ They flicker and can be distracting to members watching the service.
Whatever you use, invite everyone attending, not just members, to participate. This expression of caring within the service displays a community feeling – and that is one of the prime motivators for people joining our churches.
Make the point that it is the church that is without creed, not the individual members.
A different member each service should be asked to offer this credo in a brief statement.
+ Evening party at ministers
+ Blue Buttons
+ Annual dinner – service awards, plaques, certificates etc.
+ UU of the year. Long hauler. Unsung hero.
+ Dinner Celebration for Mentors!
+ Doctors of Durability
+ Past President’s Club
In honoring others, we honor ourselves – our honorees demonstrate all that we admire and to which we aspire. This makes us more attractive to visitors.
+ Include column by minister
+ Include column by RE director
+ Include column by art director (turn church into gallery of exceptional art)
+ Publish mini-biographies of historical members, longtime members, and new members. Remember: The internal is the external!
+ ‘Church Mouse’ column. Comings and goings. Birthdays, anniversaries, joys, sorrows of members.
+ BECAUSE “WE TRIES THAT BEFORE AND IT DIDN’T WORK”
+ BECAUSE IT ISN’T PART OF OUR MASTER PLAN
+ BECAUSE IT “WON’T BRING IN NEW MEMBERS”
+ BECAUSE IT IS PROVOCATIVE
+ BECAUSE IT ISN’T PROVOCATIVE
THE FEW VALID REASONS FOR NOT DOING SOMETHING ARE;
+ BECAUSE IT IS NOT IN GOOD TASTE
+ BECAUSE IT WILL DEMEAN ANOTHER HUMAN BEING
+ BECAUSE IT WILL STRIP DIGNITY FROM SOMEONE
+ BECAUSE IT TAKES UNFAIR ADVANTAGE OF SOMEONE
DO SOMETHING BECAUSE:
+ BECAUSE SOMEONE IN THE CONGREGATION WANTS TO DO IT!
+ BECAUSE IT WILL BRING SOMEONE JOY.
+ Disagreeing is one thing. Attacking is something else. To begin with, attacks are never productive. They damage the attacker as much as the attacked. Most of all, they damage the church. As already pointed out, no healthy person joins a church for a fight, and no healthy person enjoys bickering.
It is essential that a church have in place a clearly understood step-by-step method of dealing with conflict – before a conflict arises. Without such a method, disagreements grow rapidly to become conflicts, and conflicts escalate to schisms.
Any method available for this purpose should have both the reality and the image of allowing dissenting voice to be heard. The absence of this perception will lead to serious charges of cover-up by committees, boards, members, or ministers.
THE SECURITY OF HAVING A PROGRAM LIKE THIS IN PLACE WILL DECREASE THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING A MAJOR CONFLICT.
It is essential that we recognize the difference between the minister and the ministry.
The minister is one person. The ministry is each member of the congregation, and each person on the staff in relation with all the other people of the church.
(See: Conflict Management Process)
REVIEW ALL PROGRAMS AFTERWARDS…
NOT TO CONDEMN, BUT TO IMPROVE.
+ Look at your church as though you were seeing it for the first time.
+ And then, to check on your objectivity, bring in a friendly outside team to look at us.
+These allow people to “Get in. Get done. Get recognized. Get out.”
+ TELL VISITORS AND MEMBERS ALIKE THAT YOU ARE GOING TO INVITE THEM TO A FUNCTION
+ THEN SEND THEM A WRITTEN INVITATION.
+ THEN CALL THEM AND REMIND THEM OF THE DATE.
+ In all contacts – invitations to programs – even potlucks, church events, whatever, it takes three!
THIS BEARS REPETITION! Call them first with the invitation. Tell them that you are sending along a written invitation. Then send them an invitation with an RSVP. Do not expect them to respond. Call them within 48 hrs. of the event and check in with them to chat about the event.
Remember this is not a session on politeness or courtesy. This is outreach. We all live busy lives. People forget. They are under various pressures. If they show up – great – enjoy them. If they don’t show up, call them in a few days – not to dump guilt on them – but to make sure they are alright – and to ask if they would like to come to a different party.
There are few things that give evidence to a caring community as well as providing food for an individual or family under stress. Organize a group of people prepared to deliver meals –
+ for mothers arriving home with a newborn
+ for individuals or families where sudden incapacitation of major member of family makes preparing dinners very difficult.
+ to help celebrate special anniversaries – 25 year membership to church, 30 yrs etc.
55. HELPING PEOPLE PLUG IN:
Visitors and new members are not known to many others, and do not know many others in the church. And they do not know where the offices are, and sometimes where different buildings are. There are simple things we can provide to ease their way in to the life of the church.
+ Pictures of new member with biographies, posted.
+ Pictures of board members – with names and portfolios
+ Pictures of Committee heads – with names
Brief description of Function/Activity/Interest area of committee
+ Signs clearly indicating where different rooms of the church are located
56. HAVE ADEQUATE, ATTRACTIVE, SIMPLY WORDED “job” DESCRIPTIONS FOR EVERY PART OF EVERY ACTIVITY!
+ It is surprising how many otherwise extremely well-run churches do not have pamphlets with clearly presented descriptions of how each part of every activity in which the church operates.
+ Most boards actively seek to have every committee and task force prepare a clearly stated job description – but many neglect to prepare them for the board itself, both as an entity, and for every board position.
+ Many more people would take part in church functions if they understood exactly what was expected of them!
SEE APPENDICES FOR SAMPLE FORMS
57. HELPING PEOPLE PLUG IN TO THE LARGER COMMUNITY
Many visitors are not only new to the church, they are new to the entire neighborhood. Prepare a list of various specialty stores a newcomer might like to know about. This would include everything from boutiques to reliable trades people. And don’t forget schools – from grade school to adult education.
Offer to take them on a tour of the neighborhood.
In brief – greet them and treat them as you would someone you hope will become a friend.
58. GIVE PINS TO NEW MEMBERS
The lapel pins are an attractive and inexpensive gift. New members wear them, and have a chance to explain them to their friends.
59. WEAR PINS. WEAR MEDALLIONS
This is an important aspect of our outreach activities. The distinctive flaming chalice medallions, along as well as the lapel pins, frequently draw questions from strangers as well as friends. This provides an opportunity to describe our religion to people who may very well be drawn to us.
60. HAVE THE CHILDREN ATTEND THE FIRST PART OF EVERY SUNDAY SERVICE – OR AT LEAST ON SUNDAY EVERY MONTH.
+ The Minister or Director of Religious Education, can involve the children, at a basic level, in a very brief discussion focused on the subject of the morning’s theme or sermon.
+ After this brief conversation, a child may be invited to light the children’s chalice. This chalice may be taken by the childre4n when they leave – after they have heard either the choir or a congregational song and/or witnessed the Sharing of Sustenance.
+ There are multiple reasons for this element of our worship service.
++ It gives the children a sense of what church is about
++ It affords all the adults the clear witness that we are here for more reasons than adult stimulation. We are here for the future of all children, and of the church.
+ People of all age respond very favorably to this approach, and newcomers find it particularly attractive. And that builds community, and community builds membership.
+ This form of participation gains greater acceptance from a larger percentage of the members than does the older style of ‘reading a story’ to the children. However, some churches are able to carry off the older style with great success.
61. CHURCH TELEPHONE WELCOMING
+ Make sure that your church telephones are answered very promptly – on the 2nd or 3rd ring at the latest.
+ As much as you can, have the phone answered by a church person – not a machine.
+ And be absolutely certain that whoever answers the phone has a friendly approach and voice.
+ Calls should be returned promptly.
62. CONDUCT A VERY SIMPLE COMMUNITY SURVEY
This will give you an idea of your position in the community and at the same time will give you the opportunity to inform people in the community about your existence.
+ Do you know where the _______________ church is?
+ Do you know what kind of church it is?
Do not be surprised at how few people know of your existence, or what you are about. We have conducted this kind of survey within a couple of blocks of our most famous historic churches, and received blank responses. When people learned who we were, interest was sparked. It is basic – and it works.
63. PLAN FOR CHANGE
+ Change for the sake of change is not only likely to be unproductive, but can be downright destructive.
+ Refusal to change because of failure to recognize the need for change can be equally destructive.
However, like it or not, our church will change. Demographics, the larger economy, national and international events – all will cause change.
Planning for change is essential. Unplanned, uncontrolled, poorly understood, and not agreed upon change makes us reactive instead of proactive. We are controlled by events, instead of controlling our own destinies.
Plan both short-term, medium term, and long term changes.
AND BE PREPARED TO CHANGE YOUR PLANS! WE LIVE IN A DYNAMIC WORLD!
64. USE HUMOR
+ Relax. We are not trying to con people into buying some terrible desert property. We are not trying to shove some new dogma down their throats. Be sincere – no severe. Enjoy yourself, and let other people enjoy themselves, too.
+ Good humor (not jokes) allows people to smile. Remember: people hear better when they are smiling.
Copyright Bob Kaufmann New York, NY, 1990 Rev. Boca Raton, FL 4/18/97
Appendices include forms, pamphlets, etc (TH note: no appendices were received)
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